PSE&G plans US$883 million investment to expand its solar projects

Aug 2, 2012 - Julia Chan-

New Jersey governor Chris Christie gives a helping hand at the Hackensack Solar Farm.

Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), a US electric and gas company, has announced that it will submit a request to New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) for approval to invest up to US$883 million to expand its Solar 4 All and Solar Loan programmes in order to develop an additional 233MW of solar capacity. The expansion is expected to create around 300 jobs per year over the next five years.

The announcement came as the utility and union workers broke ground on a renewable energy project which will transform a dormant brownfield in Hackensack, New Jersey, US, into a solar farm. The 1.06MW Hackensack Solar Farm project is part of PSE&G’s Solar 4 All programme which is “helping New Jersey meet its renewable energy goals in a cost effective manner while creating jobs and helping the state’s green energy sector mature”.

The Hackensack Solar Farm is PSE&G’s fifth renewable energy project which focuses on transforming brownfields or landfills and the company has more plans in the pipeline. In addition to this project, similar installations are in service in Trenton, Edison, Linden and Kearny. When the Hackensack Solar Farm begins operation later in 2012, the utility will have reclaimed more than 40 acres of vacant brownfield and landfill space, populating those sites with more than 40,000 solar panels that will produce more than 10MW of solar power.

Reclaiming brownfields and landfills has been a centrepiece of PSE&G’s innovative Solar 4 All program. When the current Solar 4 All programme is complete in early 2013, PSE&G will have created approximately 175 direct jobs each year for the last three years with more than a dozen local companies and spent US$300 million while developing 80MW of solar capacity.

PSE&G’s new solar proposal will seek approval to invest up to US$690 million to develop another 136MW through its Solar 4 All programme to build more grid-connected solar projects on landfills, brownfields and other underutilized properties (90MW), on warehouse roofs (20MW) and on large parking lots (25MW). There is also a 1MW pilot programme for solar projects which test and demonstrate emerging solar technologies such as solar energy storage. Furthermore, the company is seeking to develop another 97MW through the third installment of its Solar Loan programme. This investment, which will help finance solar systems on homes and businesses in PSE&G’s electric service territory, could total up to US$193 million, depending on the price of solar renewable energy credits.

PSE&G’s Solar Loan programme has made US$177 million of financing available through mid-July 2012 which has helped homeowners and businesses to develop 735 installations totaling 55MW of solar capacity. Through its Solar 4 All programme, PSE&G will have 80MW of solar capacity in service by early 2013 through 24 centralized solar installations as well as, the company claims, the largest pole-attached solar panel initiative in the world.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the 775MW of solar energy currently installed in New Jersey ranks the state second in the country for installed solar capacity. In the first quarter of 2012, New Jersey had 174MW of solar energy installed - more than in any other state in the nation. This marks the first time that any state has ranked higher than California in quarterly solar installations.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie was at the Hackensack Solar Farm giving a helping hand. Commenting on New Jersey’s solar industry, governor Christie said, “New Jersey is a national leader in the solar industry. Solar investment projects like the Hackensack Solar Farm are an integral part of our state’s renewable energy portfolio, increasing New Jersey’s solar capacity, creating jobs and securing the protection of our precious environmental resources. This administration pledges to continue moving forward with our commitment to develop renewable sources of energy and with corporate partners like PSEG, New Jersey will continue to lead the way.”

Demonstrating his commitment to improving the state’s solar sector, most recently, governor Christie signed legislation S1925/A2966 which is aimed at stabilizing New Jersey’s solar industry in order to ensure growth within the sector over the next few years. Additionally, in June 2012, governor Christie passed a bill which requires companies to purchase 2.05% of their total energy from solar in the energy year 2014 under the new renewable portfolio standard.